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Srg-Jmu highway closed for third straight day

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Jammu, Feb 2: With improvement in weather conditions, the authorities have stepped up efforts to restore the strategically important Jammu-Srinagar National Highway which has remained closed for vehicular traffic since Thursday due to multiple landslides along the Banihal-Ramban stretch, officials said.

“Fresh landslides occurred overnight at several places including Anokhi fall, Digdole and Panthiyal. Road clearance operation is going on in full swing to ensure early restoration of traffic on the highway,” they added.

The 270-km highway, the only all-weather road linking Kashmir to the rest of the country, was closed for traffic on Thursday following heavy snowfall and rains which triggered multiple landslides blocking the road at various places on the Banihal-Ramban stretch, leaving hundreds of vehicles stranded.

 

The official said the snow clearance operation at Jawahar Tunnel, the gateway to Kashmir, was completed late on Friday evening, following which over 100 stranded Kashmir-bound tankers carrying petroleum products were allowed to proceed towards their destination.

“The blockade due to landslides at various places including Nachlana, Gangroo, Seri and Battery Cheshma were also cleared, while efforts are on to clear the blockade at other paces,” the official said, “the road is likely to be made ready for traffic by late afternoon”.

However, he said only stranded vehicles will be allowed to move towards their destinations after the completion of the ongoing clearance operation.

The weatherman said dry conditions are likely to prevail till February 5, however, a spell of rain and snow has been predicted under the influence of western disturbance from February 5 evening.

“Weather is likely to remain mainly dry throughout the state till February 5 (evening). It is likely be be followed by another spell of snow and rain till February 9,” a spokesman of the MET department said.

Meanwhile, the sun shone brightly in Jammu after remaining hidden behind clouds over the past couple of days, providing much needed relief to the people from the cold conditions.

Amid intermittent rains, the day temperature in the city Friday plummeted to 11.6 degrees Celsius, which is 9.3 degrees below normal during this part of the season, the spokesman said adding the night temperature also fell, settling at 6.5 degrees Celsius.

The snow-bound Banihal emerged as the coldest place in Jammu region with minimum temperature slipping to -5.0 degrees Celsius followed by Bhaderwah town of Doda district at -4.0 degrees Celsius and the highway township of Batote at -2.5 degrees Celsius, the spokesman said.

He said Katra, the base camp for pilgrims visiting the famous Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Reasi district, recorded a low of 5.0 degrees Celsius.
Over 100 stranded tankers carrying petroleum products for Kashmir crossed the Jawahar Tunnel late on Friday, Alok Kumar, inspector general of Police (IGP) traffic told reporters.

Nearly 3,000 vehicles, mostly trucks, have been parked at safer places in Qazigund-Banihal stretch of the highway.

Closure of the highway has resulted in shortages of essential supplies in the landlocked valley. Unscrupulous traders are using it to sell commodities at exorbitant prices.


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Goel is new RAW chief, Arvind Kumar appointed IB head

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New Delhi, Jun 26:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday appointed Samant Goel as the next chief of India’s external spy agency, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) and Arvind Kumar as the Director, Intelligence Bureau.

Both are Indian Police Service officers of 1984 batch with Goel belonging to Punjab cadre and Kumar, to Assam-Meghalaya cadre.

Goel heads operations for the external intelligence agency.

 

Meanwhile Arvinda Kumar is the Director, Intelligence Bureau.

PM Modi, as chairman of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, also cleared the empanelment of 1986 batch IPS officer in the rank of Director General.

Both are Indian Police Service officers of 1984 batch with Goel belonging to Punjab cadre and Kumar, to Assam-Meghalaya cadre.

Goel heads operations for the external intelligence agency.

Goel according to a report has handled Punjab militancy at its peak in the 1990s and is a Pakistan expert. A mild-mannered police officer, Samant Goel has impeccable integrity, said a senior R&AW officer.

Arvind Kumar has been closely involved in tackling left-wing extremism at the Intelligence Bureau. The special director-rank officer is also the intelligence agency’s Kashmir expert and has been closely involved in formulating and executing the Centre’s approach on militancy in the valley.

Kumar, who started out his career in the police service from Assam, had moved to the intelligence bureau early in his career after a stint as superintendent of police of Sonitpur, one of the state’s largest districts. He never went back to Assam police and continued to work at the Centre, mostly at the intelligence agency.

Samant Goel, in contrast, spent a considerable part of his career in Punjab where he was posted to oversee security, intelligence and the border range.

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Pompeo meets PM Modi, discusses key strategic issues

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New Delhi, Jun 26: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday and discussed various aspects of the bilateral relationship to strengthen the India-US strategic partnership.

Pompeo, who arrived here on Tuesday night, will hold detailed discussions with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in the afternoon and have a working lunch with him.

“Working together to further deepen our strategic partnership. Secretary Pompeo called on PM Narendra Modi to exchange views on various aspects of Indo-US relationship. PM will meet President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the upcoming G20 Osaka Summit,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted along with pictures of the meeting.

 

Ahead of the strategically-important India-US talks, diplomatic sources on Tuesday said India met the US waiver criteria for procuring the S-400 missile defence system from sanctions-hit Russia, and asserted that New Delhi could not “wish away” its defence ties with Moscow.

Besides India’s missile defence system deal with Russia, terrorism, H-1B visas, trade and the situation arising out of US sanctions on buying oil from Iran, are likely to be discussed on Wednesday during the talks between Jaishankar and Pompeo.

Pompeo’s talks here will be the first high-level interaction between the two countries after return of the Modi government to power last month.

Pompeo’s visit comes ahead of a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Modi on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, later this week

 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Wednesday said that India and the US should stand together in the defence of religious freedom rights for all and asserted that the world is worse off when they are compromised.

“India is the birthplace of four major world religions. Let’s stand up together in defence of religious freedom for all, let us speak out in favour of those rights, for whenever we do compromise those rights, the world is worse off,” Pompeo was quoted as saying .

Pompeo’s remarks come in the backdrop of a recently-released US State Department report on ‘International Religious Freedom’ that said mob attacks by violent extremist Hindu groups against the minority communities, particularly Muslims, are continuing in India.

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AGH militant killed in Tral gunfight: Police

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Srinagar, Jun 26: A militant of Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind was killed in an encounter with government forces at Branpatri forest area of Tral in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Tuesday.

A joint team of army, SOG and CRPF laid a siege at Branpatri, forest area of Tral in Awantipora today morning.

A police spokesman said that the cordon was laid following credible inputs. As the joint team launched searches, the militants opened fire leading to an encounter, the spokesman said.

 

During the course of gunfight, one militant was killed and his body along with arms and ammunition was recovered. The officer identified the slain as Shabir Ahmad Malik of Nagbal Tral.

As per the police records, he was initially affiliated with proscribed LeT outfit and later on was part of Zakir Musa group, the spokesman said.

“Shabir, as per police records, was wanted by law for his complicity in several terror crimes including attack on security establishments and civilian atrocities,” he said.

“He was part of groups responsible for planning and executing militant attacks in the area. Several militant cases were registered against him including case FIR No. 43/15 of Police Station Trikuta Nagar pertaining to the planning and making preparations for carrying out terror attacks in Jammu,” the spokesman said.

Pertinently with the efforts of Police and security forces, it was a clean operation. No collateral damage happened during the encounter, the spokesman said.

After conducting all legal medico formalities, the body of the slain was handed over to his family for last rites, an official said.

Meanwhile, thousands of people attended the funeral of the slain at his native place. He was later buried amid pro-freedom slogans.

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